Losing does have its benefits.
No one ever would publicly express it in those terms, but on this one day — the first day of the NFL draft — there’s no denying the fact that the misery of a 6-10 season, such as the Tennessee Titans endured last fall, is tempered somewhat.
The result of that record, the franchise’s worst in five years, is that the Titans have the eighth overall selection for the draft, which begins 7 p.m. (CDT) Thursday, continues with the second and third rounds on Friday (5 p.m.), and concludes with the remaining four rounds Saturday (11 a.m.). That means General Manager Mike Reinfeldt, for the first time since he took the job in 2007, enters the draft with the expectation that he will select a top-flight professional prospect.
“We would all differ on the exact number, but I think there are probably six to seven, eight really elite players in this draft,” Reinfeldt said. “So we have a chance to get a special player.”
This is the ninth time in the last 30 years the franchise has had a top 10 selection. Six of those were between 1982 and 1987, a stretch which began the last time the team (then the Houston Oilers) had the No. 8 choice. Coincidentally, that selection was offensive lineman Mike Munchak, who had a Hall of Fame career and three months ago became the Titans’ head coach.
Notable players selected eighth overall in recent years include tackle Willie Roaf (1993), wide receiver Plaxico Burruss (2000) and cornerback DeAngelo Hall (2004). Last year the Oakland Raiders got linebacker Rolando McClain out of Alabama at that spot.
“I think what happens is when we come up, whether it’s eighth [or another spot], we’re going to get three or four players that we think are worthy of that pick,” Reinfeldt said. “We’ll get the input [of staff members and] … we’ll try to develop a consensus. If we can find the right guy that makes sense for everything, that’s the guy we take.”
Most likely, the Titans will take either a quarterback or a defensive lineman at that spot. Numerous mock drafts speculate that Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, once considered the top prospect, will be available to them at that spot.
The good news for Tennessee is that its personnel department believes the draft is deep at both positions. Therefore, it’s likely that Reinfeldt and his staff can fill both needs with their top two picks. Their second-round choice will be the 39th overall selection.
In addition to their regular picks in each of the seven rounds, the Titans also have compensatory picks in the fourth (130th overall) and seventh (251st overall).
“That is a part of it and the good thing is we have the extra two compensatory picks,” Reinfeldt said. “That helps us with the extra fourth and the extra seventh, which gives us nine guys. We will still go through the same process. We will grade those guys and we will get ready to go whenever we get the word to go on it.
“We will use those players to fill out our roster.”
The first of those picks, though, they hope will make a significant impact.
“Even when you’re picking eight, you’re still at the teams’ mercy ahead of you,” Vice President of Pro Personnel Ruston Webster said. “Until we have a feel for what they’re going to do, it’s hard to predict right now [who will be available].”
As the Titans’ spot in the selection order dropped steadily from Reinfeldt’s first draft in 2007 (the Titans took safety Michael Griffin 19th overall) to when they selected Kenny Britt 30th in 2009, Reinfeldt’s concern about whether or not he would get one of those players grew.
Clearly, that is not an issue this time.
“We kind of get a group of guys that make sense for us at the number eight pick, and I think that’s a little easier equation to do than when you’re picking 19 or 24 or 15th,” Reinfeldt said. “There are so many more things you have to take into consideration.
“…With that being said, we want the best player.”
The fact that they had one of the worst records makes that easier to do.